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Premier moves to control security agency
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, May 5 In the latest battle over the State Property Fund, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Monday sought to eliminate President Viktor Yushchenkos control over the special security agency guarding all government offices.

At least 50 lawmakers from the Tymoshenko group filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court insisting that operation of the agency, the State Guard Department, has been illegal, Andriy Portnov, a Tymoshenko lawmaker, said.

The lawmakers also contested Yushchenkos right to appoint the agency chief, a move that may effectively undermine the presidents control over the top security agency.

The agency since April 24 has been blocking Portnov, who had been earlier appointed the acting head of the SPF, from getting access to SPF offices.

The blocking is absolutely illegal and will get a [legal] assessment, Portnov said in an interview with Channel 5 television late Monday. Today 50 lawmakers from out political group have signed the appeal to the Constitutional Court.

Yushchenko said the reshuffle at the SPF was illegal since the removal and the appointment of the SPF head must be approved by Parliament. The reshuffle has never been submitted to Parliament amid fears it would not be approved.

The development underscores further escalation of the battle between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko over powers, but now the conflicts starts to affect operation of one of the countrys top security agencies.

The situation has been developing in the worst-case scenario that could lead to a confrontation similar to the stand-off between Yushchenko and then Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in 2007, analysts said. The stand-off led to the dismissal of Parliament and the early election in September 2007.

Tymoshenkos appeal to the Constitutional Court comes as she had been apparently enjoying loyalty of many of the judges, while Yushchenkos own control over the court has been dwindling quickly.

The court last month rejected Yushchenkos appeal that had been seeking to stop the reshuffle at the SPF, people familiar with the situation said.

Last month Yushchenko was forced to withdraw his appeal at the last minute, only to re-submit it again less than two weeks ago, now apparently seeking to win time in the battle with Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko desperately needs to get control over the SPF to unlock privatization as the government has been facing a major budget revenue shortfall jeopardizing her massive social spending program.

The government has been facing 9 billion hryvnia revenue shortfall, which it sought to bridge the gap through selling some of the countrys prized state assets, such as the Odessa Portside Plant, which could fetch in as much as 5 billion hryvnias.

But Yushchenko said the plant can be sold without strategically important pipeline that carries ammonia from Russia to Odessa for exports via the Odessa sea port. Yushchenko said the sea port infrastructure also cannot be privatized.

I will stay on guarding the norms of the constitution in this issue, Yushchenko said on Monday. I think the government understands this, but for some reasons has not been making conclusions. We are going the wrong way. (tl/ez)




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